Travelling Australia - Journal 2015b
|26 April 2015
Stanley to Devonport (Spirit of Tasmania)
A bright, sunny but cool morning for our departure from Stanley which we delayed to have a final cup of coffee at the chocolate and coffee shop. Then we left on the Bass Highway bound for East Devonport where we expected to board the Spirit of Tasmania for the overnight voyage to Melbourne.
The Bass Highway runs through agricultural land with chocolate brown soil widespread. A large number of irrigation sprays were visible along the road. Although there is a number of towns and villages along the coast the Bass Highway passes through very few of them. Traffic was light on a Sunday morning; most vehicles were vintage vehicles travelling in convoys to a vintage vehicle meeting being held in a paddock alongside the Bass Highway.
We arrived in Devonport many hours before boarding so decided to revisit some of the tourist establishments we had enjoyed so much when we arrived in Tasmania last week. Several pleasant hours were spent at cheese, raspberry, chocolate and cherry establishments.
Later in the afternoon, after filling in more time in Devonport, we drove around to East Devonport to join the boarding queue before processing began. Signage on the roads along the north coast and East Devonport is excellent with a large white profile of the ship on a blue background to attract attention. Signage for the vehicle ferry in Tasmania is far superior to that at Port Melbourne which is very sketchy.
We had, by now, absorbed the reality that boarding the Spirit of Tasmania is mainly a process of waiting for something to happen. So we waited in a double queue of sedans, caravans, motorhomes, four-wheel drives, and a few motorbikes. When the queue started moving we soon reached the initial processing booth where we were given boarding passes for us and for the vehicle; then onto the security and quarantine check which was only a few questions and not nearly as rigorous as the check entering Tasmania. Next we were directed into one of several queues of vehicles arranged roughly by size with higher and longer caravans and motorhomes in their own queue.
While in the queue we watched the sun set and put on more clothing as the temperature dropped. At about 5.45 our queue was marshalled ahead and entered the ship through the stern door onto Deck Three. This is the deck used for freight containers but we saw only one or two in place; when we had boarded in Melbourne last week this deck was crowded with containers leaving a single lane for other vehicles; now there was so much empty space that we had to watch the vehicle ahead to see where to go (our guess was that Sunday was a quiet day for freight). We followed the vehicle ahead of us down a long ramp past Deck Two to be directed into parking on Deck Garage One, the lowest deck in the ship. We accurately concluded that we were so far down in the ship that we would be among the last vehicles off the ship in Melbourne.
The single lift/stairway up from Deck One was crowded but everyone was going the same way (up to the accommodation decks, most to Deck Eight) so things went fairly quickly.
Once we arrived on Deck Eight we joined the dozens of passengers wandering the corridors looking for their cabin. Cabin doors are marked with the cabin number but there are no other indications; a cabin number can only be seen while standing outside it. Corridors look the same and the few signs meant to advise cabin locations are limited and ineffective. Each passenger has a map of the deck with cabins numbered but the font is too small for serious use. Eventually a crew-member came available to point passengers towards their cabins.
Given the overall efficiency of the Spirit of Tasmania operation, the failure to help passengers find their cabin is an anomaly. Most activity is smooth; for example, when we drove to the check-in booth our number plate had been read before we stopped and our file presented to the operator who was able to greet us by first names. If corridors were given identification (names or numbers) and the corridor identification included on the boarding pass (already containing the cabin number) then passengers would have a start finding their cabin.
Alternatively (and probably easier to implement) the informative maps of the ship already placed around the accommodation area marked with "You Are Here" stickers could be made effective by adding cabin numbers to the existing drawings. These supposedly informative maps are, at present, useless in assisting newly arrived passengers to find their way around.
As soon as we had found our cabin and dropped the limited luggage we had bought from the car we went to eat at the buffet and when we felt the engines start at 7 o'clock we were well into our meal looking across the river at Devonport's lights.
The ship sailed at 7:30 but it was fully dark outside and raining and we couldn't see anything interesting. So we went to our cabin to get ready for an early night.